#46 Belmont Men's Basketball Preview

Belmont Bruins

Overall Rank: #46
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic Sun
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2010-11: 30-5, 19-1
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Byrd (518-278 at Belmont, 610-333 overall)

Belmont and Coach Rick Byrd only lost five games last season. This program has dominated the Atlantic Sun for the last six years and they will make it seven before heading off to the Ohio Valley Conference in 2012-2013. The Bruins are a real threat to win an NCAA Tournament game this year with four starters returning. This is a team that had 11 players who averaged at least ten minutes per game. Nine of them are back and Coach Byrd can make line changes at every TV timeout once again if he wants to. The depth is certainly there to have a slew of players average between 25 and ten minutes per game again.

Who’s Out:
Jordan Campbell and Jon House are the two major contributors who are not returning. Those two graduate with a couple NCAA Tournament appearances under their belt. Campbell was not even starting last season, but the wing still averaged 8.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Just about everybody who shoots is a great long range shooter on this team, but Campbell was the best of the bunch, connecting on 45.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Finding another player who can be that consistent off of the bench will not be easy. House, another wing, did not do too much shooting or scoring, but he was a fine rebounder and a tough defender.

Who’s In:
Spencer Turner is the newcomer who could make a contribution right away. The 6-3 Hoosier had a superb prep career in Bloomington, Indiana and can score in bunches. If he is left open, he can knock down the long ball with great consistency and that could get him into the rotation from day one. Seth Cavera and redshirt freshmen Reece Chamberlain, Holden Mobley and Chad Lang will likely have to bide their time before making much of an impact.

Who to Watch:
Drew Hanlen is the man who makes this team tick. The senior point guard dished out 4.0 assists per game last year and only recorded 1.4 turnovers. He is a decent scorer and a solid shooter, but his best asset he brings to this team is his ability to control tempo and keep a lot of other players happy. Ian Clark will be the main benefactor of Hanlen’s passing. Clark led the Bruins with 12.2 points per game and is a superb shooter. He knocked down 42.9 percent of his attempts from three point land and has limitless range. The 6-3 junior does not spend too much time inside the arc, but he has the size to diversify his game a little bit more now that he is an upperclassman. Kerron Johnson is a superb defender and is a great asset off of the bench. With a spot in the starting five opening up, he could end up starting, but he is a great player who can score and defend and always provides a spark. The starting job will likely go to sophomore J.J. Mann. At 6-6, Mann can provide some more rebounding help to the Bruins and is a closer fit to what House brought last season.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt has a star in Mick Hedgepeth. The 6-9 senior is a great interior scorer who can also step outside and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency. He was second on the team with 10.8 points and easily led the Bruins with 5.9 rebounds per contest. Trevor Noack will likely start by his side again this year. Noack is not a big scorer, but he can do the dirty work in the paint. Scott Saunders had a very productive junior season. At 6-10, he is a big body who pretty much splits time with Hedgepeth. Saunders is just as efficient of an interior scorer as Hedgepeth and is a good rebounder and an even better shot blocker. Coach Byrd has two solid big men in Hedgepeth and Saunders and at least one of them is always on the floor providing Belmont with a quality interior scorer. Brandon Baker and Blake Jenkins are a couple more forwards who played at least ten minutes per game last year and are back to help Belmont win another conference crown. The question is not whether or not this team will win the A-Sun, it is if they will lose a game. Belmont was defeated just once by a conference opponent last year in 23 tries. The record should be about the same this time around, but this group may just have enough talent to win an NCAA Tournament game if the matchup is right.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Drew Hanlen, Senior, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Ian Clark, Junior, Guard, 12.2 points per game
J.J. Mann, Sophomore, Guard, 6.0 points per game
Trevor Noack, Junior, Forward, 5.2 points per game
Mick Hedgepeth, Senior, Center, 10.8 points per game

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